Another week, another solid episode of The Challenge. Berna and CT won the daily, where we had yet another medical DQ. Thinking it would be a men’s only elimination (it was, but not before another classic T.J. tease), the house voted in the team of Aneesa and Logan. In the Lair, Logan ousted Gabo in a tight contest, meaning the vets sent yet another rookie home.
Question 1: This season, there seems to be a lot more screen time devoted to what’s going on at the house. Do you think that’s an intentional move by the producers in an effort to respond to criticism of the last few seasons? Or is it just an organic occurrence from the cast?
TD: I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was a deliberate move by the producers. One of the biggest criticisms of recent seasons is how game-centric the episodes have become, and you’d have to believe they were aware and made an effort to rectify the problem. There’s a good balance to be found between recent seasons and those early seasons, where the show was almost entirely focused on the social aspect of house life and would skip over large portions of the dailies and even eliminations. Either way, I’m enjoying the balance so far this season.
Blaine: With this much romance, how could you not include it? Aneesa helps point out that there is a lot more hugging and kissing this season. The relationships have often dictated nominations and guided conversations. Not showing more of the theatrics within the mansion, specifically the cuddles and mouth wrestling, would leave viewers questioning a lot of action onscreen: Emanuel’s hug and “Love you!” to Michelle as she left, Ashley choosing to drop Nelson into the water in a daily, and Josh’s blow-up on Fessy all make a lot more sense with the context of the in-house scenes. It’s a matter of necessity and a welcome one at that. It’s made for a good season so far.
Adam: It may have been a deliberate move to create an environment that encouraged more house drama. I’m giving them as much credit as I can here, be it with cast selection (which was great this season) or game design, rather than purely editing. Either way, I have really enjoyed the driving dynamics of the game so far. The veterans are free from the gold skull twist, and the new folks are playing as smart a game as they can to avoid the dreaded “rookie/rookie” pairing. I love it when season specific quirks like that develop. It has made for compelling early season drama, where I want to see explosions but no injuries, so to speak.
Question 2: If you had to make a list of 5 things that you think are of paramount importance for succeeding on The Challenge, what would that list look like?
TD: Distance running, swimming, core strength, knowledge of the history of The Challenge, order of operations. I’m putting emphasis on that last one, because like 97% of the math problems on the show deal with order of operations, and it kills a lot of people. PEMDAS!
Blaine: Endurance for long competitions, mental fortitude, a mind for politics, an understanding of 8th-grade math, and a head for puzzles. Most of those are broader visions of what TD mentions above. Having muscles have certainly helped in recent seasons, but grit goes beyond, especially in the final where you may be asked to run for three miles then eat some gross (literal!?!) shit.
Adam: I’ll be an echo. I think about this constantly while watching the show. Serious distance running ability (bonus effect is a calmer mind while doing puzzles), core strength (helps balance, to boot), and comfort in the water are the physical attributes, if we’re starting with the obvious “be athletic.” There’s a lot of “popcorn muscle” folks that don’t have the natural athleticism to hang with smaller, wilier competitors (see: Jordan’s whole career). The other two may be the most important: a serious sense of gamesmanship (see: Bananas figuring out the shortcut to every game, CT memorizing puzzles that repeat every season, etc.) and an attitude that is psyched on the adventure (again, see: Bananas losing his mind every time they get to go climb a mountain or dive underwater or do whatever dangerous feat, Ashley attacking whatever insane task they offer with a ferocity and concentration far above her physical abilities, etc). Also, I’m taking a bonus here, the ability to math at least kind of good. I don’t math so good, but most of these folks really don’t math so good.
Question 3: Another competitor bites the dust to injury/illness. Any parting words for Aneesa?
TD: It always sucks to see someone go home for anything that’s not an elimination, but it really sucks to sees a vet like Aneesa get hurt and medically DQ’d. And you know it’s gotta be really disheartening to someone her age (she turns 40 this Saturday, happy birthday Aneesa!), because those injuries take a bigger mental toll the older you get. In your 20s you can just shake that shit off, recover and come back the next season, no big deal. But as you push 40 and beyond, the recovery gets longer and harder; and you have to wonder if the vets don’t start questioning whether it’s worth it to come back year after year.
Blaine: It’s a shame that Aneesa has to go due to injury; it always is a bummer whenever a player doesn’t get his/her/their rightful chance to win an elimination in order to stay. But honestly? Aneesa, as much as I like her, was going to find some hardships somewhere and having her go home early makes for a more competitive cast now.
Adam: I am relieved that we didn’t have to hear too much of Aneesa’s old “I just want a chance” speech in regards to making a final. I genuinely like Aneesa as a character on this show, but there would have to be a serious off-season regimen executed for her to be a real threat anymore. I hope it happens, and like has been said above, I hate to see anyone go home injured. Godspeed on the rehab.
Question 4: Kyle said “do they realize there’s no skull twist?” and they used it to go to commercial… so there’s definitely going to be a skull twist, isn’t there?
TD: I mean, they’re really hitting that theme hard in this trilogy, so it would not surprise me at all if that was some foreshadowing, and T.J. re-introduced the skulls later this season, in some form or fashion.
Blaine: I haven’t thought of it, but I’d love a skull twist. I’m betting against it, though. Sometimes I don’t think that MTV and the producers for The Challenge think through this as much as we fans do, so I’ll say that nothing this major will happen. On a similar note, I did find it hilariously amazing that this week’s nominations shifted quickly from the usual deliberations of who should and shouldn’t go into elimination into who will be picked as a partner in the aftermath. Dang.
Adam: I think the current format is working wonderfully, so I am hesitant on this idea. But they are unafraid of a twist, so who knows. I hope not. They have been heavy handed on the foreshadowing, though. Gabo got a lot of screen time talking about being afraid of losing Nany and her protection, and look where that got him! But please. No skulls.
Question 5: On a scale of 1-10, how annoying is Hughie to you?
TD: Like a fucking 47.
Blaine: Easily a 10. I said it from the opening week of this season that Hughie ain’t cut out for this game: he brings little to the table in any of the factors that one needs to be worth a shit (see Question 3 above). And though Hughie’s the worst of the season, let me digress. Gabo and Emy were the perfect pairing because I wanted both of them to go home now. Gabo looks into the camera, says he wants to win for his family, and immediately loses all sympathy he garnered just a half of second before by saying that he’s also playing for sports cars and gold watches! No wonder he was on Warsaw’s version of Jersey Shore. (He even prays to Mike “The Situation”!) Nany says, after Gabo is thankfully sent home, that she “couldn’t ask for a better rookie.” Ummmmm. It is a couple from heaven now that Hughie (the worst) will work with Emy (also awful). My fingers are crossed that they both are sent into elimination next week (it’s an obvious house vote, right?!) and that both go home.
Adam: We’ll always have him puking with fear and Ashley cry laughing and him puking some more on top of that seaside cliff. He also showed up and won an elimination. So, still, an 8.
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